The Pentax X-5 at Photokina

An inexpensivie do-it-all camera?

By PF Staff in Photokina 2012 on Sep 25, 2012
The Pentax X-5 at Photokina

The Pentax X-5 super-zoom camera was announced a few weeks before Photokina and was available to try out at the show.  In the US, it has just arrived at retailers.

The X-5 is not an interchangeable lens canera but features a permanently affixed 26x zoom lens (equivalent to 22 - 580 mm in the 24 x 36 mm format), so it is effectively a point and shoot camera dressed up to look like a DSLR. The specifications are impressive, though, and the question then is if the X-5 could fill the role of a back-up camera for DSLR shooters? Or is it "just" a , or is it just another point-and-shoot?

Pentax X-5 Specifications
Sensor 16 MP, 1/2.3 in back-lit CMOS
Sensitivity ISO 100 - 6,400
Exposure compensation +/- 2 EV
Expanded dynamic range Yes
Lens 4 - 104 mm (22 - 580 mm eqv.)
F3.1 - F5.9
Shutter 1/4 s to 1/1,500 s
Down to 4s in night mode
Burst rate 10 fps (5 MP images)
Focus Autofocus: 9 points, contrast detect
Manual focus available
Super macro down to 1 cm
Monitor 3 inch, 460,000 dots
Tilts up and down
Viewfinder Electronic, 230,000 dots
Video H.264, MPEG-4, MOV
Full HD at 30 fps
720p at 30 and 60 fps
VGA at 30 fps
HDMI out
Built-in mic Mono
External mic No
Weather resistant No
Size (BxHxD) 120 x 86.5 x 106.5 mm
Built-in flash Yes
Weight (loaded) 599 g

Pixel mapping (unusual in this class)
Powered by 4 AA batteries

Read on for our initial impression...

Our first impression is that it handles well - feels good in the hand. But - surprisingly - the wide and nice looking ring on the lens barrel is neither a zoom ring nor a focus ring! It doesn't turn and simply serves as a grip for your left hand. Zooming is done like on a point-and-shoot with a lever surrounding the shutter release button. And - like on a point and shoot - the operation is sluggish: it is difficult if not impossible to achieve exact framing.

The second disappointment is the electronic viewfinder. It is coarse at just 230,000 dots but worse is that the image freezes for a moment just after autofocus system locks, and when it unfreezes your subject may very well have moved and you must catch up by reframing. Thus, it's definitely not useable to track moving objects. The Ricoh GXR showed us how responsive an EVFs can truly be (the GXR is at a much higher price point, though).

The above two points are really our only gripes. The buttons are well laid-out and the camera feels just right with all buttons within reach of the right hand fingers. There is even a separate button for video recording.

button layout - click to enlarge

The monitor tilts which comes in handy when doing macro photography or when shooting in crowds, but it unfortunately does not articulate.

 monitor tilts - click to enlargeSetting image quality aside (we can't comment until we get a camera in for review) it does appear that you get a lot of camera for below $300. But is it a worthy backup camera for DSLR shooters? We think not. If you come from a DSLR you will not be thrilled with the sluggish zoom function and the freeze-up of the viewfinder image. The Pentax Q or Q10 - if you can forego the viewfinder - is a much more responsive camera. We see the X-5 as beginner's camera or a stepping stone for point-and-shoot users on their way into DSLR or high-end mirrorless shooting.

The full Pentax X-5 specifications are available in our camera database.  The X-5 is already in stock at B&H Photo in New York.

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